There's a new dentist in town, and youngsters will feel like they've walked right into an Old West town when they go in for a visit.
Dr. Kevin Olson, who opened his doors Wednesday, said he looks forward to many new patients. But he didn't always aspire to be a children's dentist.
"When I started dental school, I remember thinking I didn't want to deal with kids, but in my first year, I saw a child who'd had a bad experience and had poor oral hygiene, so I thought this is something where I could make a difference. So I looked into it, and it was a really good fit for me," Olson said.
Olson, who lives in Carson City with his wife, Teah, two sons and daughter, graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno, in 2004, and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Dental School in 2009, and served his residency at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.
He decided to set up practice in Carson City because he and his wife like Northern Nevada, his sister lives here, and because there was a need for a full-time pediatric dentist in the capital city.
"I wanted to take care of the underserved, so we'll take Medicaid - those are the kids who need it the most," he said.
But what makes Olson's office appealing to the younger set is the attention to detail of the interior design, which is handled by wife Teah, who's also his office assistant.
A huge mural painted by Reno artist Natalie Gorden, taking up one whole wall, depicts a Western town and a shootout between dueling cowboys wearing Wolf Pack and Runnin' Rebel cowboy hats. Other mural details include a signpost listing all the towns where Olson and his wife have lived, including his hometown - Pioche, Nev. - and a number of hidden pictures that kids can try to find such as an ice cream cone, a toothbrush, a heart and a skateboard.
Upon entering the lobby, the first thing the young patients likely will see is a mechanical pony that offers a 30-second ride using recycled quarters. There's a special waiting room behind jail bars where kids can sit on miniature sofas and color or play video games. A flat-screen TV will offer Disney movies, which will play simultaneously in the waiting room and on the ceiling, to be viewed from the dental chairs.
A special tribute to the most famous Old West dentist, Doc Holliday, is framed on one wall, and youngsters can download coloring pages at the office website to enter a coloring contest.
Olson said he offers everything from preventive care, such as cleanings and sealings, to restorative work, which includes fillings and crowns.
The playful atmosphere of the office continues through the treatment session: Instead of a drill, patients will be introduced to Mr. Whistle, and the nitrous oxide mask is known as Mr. Nose.
"'Shot' is a four-letter word, and the child never hears about it or sees it. It doesn't exist. I just pull on their cheek a little bit," he said. "For children who are really fearful, they can just go to sleep in our operating room and wake up when it's all over."
Among his first patients were the children of Yvonne Jensen.
"I have been dying for a good pediatric dentist here in town," Jensen said. "My kids have really bad teeth, and I've taken them to Reno and Gardnerville, but I'm a stay-at-home mom, and I needed something here.
"I was just driving by and saw the sign, and I was thrilled. I called right away, and even though they weren't open at the time, they said they were taking appointments," she said.
"I love the office. My kids are shy, but everyone there was so gentle and sweet, and I just love Dr. Olson's personality and manner. They all made everything really easy."
Olson sees patients from their first birthday up to age 18, and he had 30 appointments scheduled when he opened Wednesday.
New-patient specials for $49 include an exam, teeth cleaning and full series of X-rays.
Other members of Olson's staff are office manager Gloria Buleje and dental assistants Sara Prehm and Lorann Service.